Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Developer Diary #1 - A Very Long Journey

The very candid and wry Ragnar Tørnquist kicks off our designer diary coverage for the sequel to one of the greatest adventure games ever made.


Dreamfall: The Longest Journey

Nearly five years have passed since Funcom released its critically acclaimed adventure game The Longest Journey, and the company has spent most of that time working on its sequel, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Though Dreamfall isn't due out until next year, the game is finally coming together, and Funcom is finally opening up about this anticipated sequel to one of the best adventure games ever made. Dreamfall will introduce 3D graphics to the series, and it will be released for both the PC and the Xbox. And yet Dreamfall is much more than a simple technological upgrade. To explain, we have Ragnar Tørnquist, Dreamfall's very candid and open director, to kick off our designer diary coverage.

Zoë Castillo is the brand-new heroine of Dreamfall.
Zoë Castillo is the brand-new heroine of Dreamfall.

A Very Long Journey

Ragnar Tørnquist
Director, Funcom

Two years ago, we set out on a long journey.

Driven by faith alone, with only a rough map to guide us, we raised anchor and sailed off toward lands unknown. Strong winds, rough seas, changing seasons, sirens' songs, and the odd mutiny or two* did their best to waylay us, but we persevered against impossible odds (and, some say, common sense and human decency) and now, finally, two years later, 24 months, six--no, 700 days, and…um… Now we have spotted those mythical far shores. They are still a ways off, those mythical far shores, but we see them through the dissipating mist. A veil is being lifted. We know where we are going. We know we will be there soon.

Two years ago, a few good men began working on Dreamfall: The Longest Journey. Today, 30 very tired people (including, surprisingly enough for those of us who have worked in game development for too long, some womenfolk) are only a few months away from finishing the game. And it has been--aptly enough--a very, very long journey.

Through this diary, brought to you by the development team, you'll receive an insight into our days and lives, minds and hearts (and also, if you're lucky, stomachs) during the race to the finish line. And maybe, just maybe, you'll learn something about life, love, and loss in the process.

Actually, no, you won't. You'll only learn about a game.

Dreamfall is a follow-up to The Longest Journey, a point-and-click PC adventure game released in 2000. The Longest Journey was a massive hit for Funcom, and the game went on to become one of the most successful and beloved adventures of the past decade. It was also one of the last traditional adventure games, and when we first sat down to make a follow-up in the spring of 2003, we knew we had to do something different. We didn't want to be traditional. We wanted to invent. We wanted to surprise. We wanted to take a leap of faith from a very, very tall bridge. We wanted to spend a lot of money. And boy, did we ever!

The game has a stylish look to it for an adventure game.
The game has a stylish look to it for an adventure game.

Dreamfall, an adventure game for the Xbox and PC, was unveiled to the press for the first time at E3 in 2004, where it won awards from the top three US gaming sites, including GameSpot, for best adventure game of the show. People were generally impressed, but also surprised and skeptical. Surprised, because Dreamfall felt like a very different beast from The Longest Journey; sceptical, because our vision didn't precisely mesh with most people's perception of a traditional sequel.

The thing is, Dreamfall was never meant to be Just Another Sequel (JAS to us jaded professionals). Dreamfall is a next-generation adventure set in the same world as, and sharing a lot of characters and themes with, The Longest Journey. The introduction of a brand-new heroine named Zoë Castillo, tons of brand-new characters and brand-new locations, and an even brander and newer storyline, means this game is equally suitable for both (brand) new players and existing fans.

Since that first E3, we've only showed the game publicly a couple of times, and only the opening chapters of the story have been revealed. That's about to change.

If you'll allow a digression (and you will, because you have no choice), we're now at a stage where the game is truly starting to take shape, in terms of gameplay, visuals, sound...the whole package. The best part, right now, is just how freaking awesome the Xbox version looks. I never thought we'd get it looking this close to the PC version, but it looks just as good, and in some ways, even better. The detail mapping adds, well, detail, and the lower resolution hides the flaws.

Actually, scratch that. The Xbox version looks great, but the best part is how well it plays. I've had my doubts, my sleepless nights, and my (totally unrelated) drunken binges, but it really feels like a fun game now, and despite the fact that I've played through parts of it a thousand times already, I haven't grown sick of it yet. Granted, I may have the attention span of a particularly forgetful goldfish, but Dreamfall's turning into a very playable adventure, packed with fun characters, awesome graphics, and marshmallowy goodness. Tooting my own horn? Mmm, yes. Yes, I am. But more importantly, I'm championing the combined efforts of a lot of talented people who have worked their asses off to kick Dreamfall up another notch.

Now, with just a few months of development to go, we're telling it all. Well, not quite all, because we don't want to spoil the plot for anyone out there, but we'll reveal a bunch of what Dreamfall has in store for you, the player. (Assuming you are one, of course. If you're not, what the hell are you doing here?) We'll look at some of the important, and not-so-important, characters in the game, reveal some intriguing new locations, take a gander at the cool graphics, listen to some fantastic music, and maybe even learn something about life, love, and more.

Oh, by the way, my name is Ragnar Tørnquist, and I'm the game director of Dreamfall. My job is to ensure that all the little bits and pieces that constitute the game experience (graphics, animations, music, controls, interface, puzzles, conversations, and so on) fit together to tell the story and make the best possible game experience. Some say I have the best job in the world. OK, that would be me. But it is a very, very cool job. Honestly.

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is due out some time next spring.
Dreamfall: The Longest Journey is due out some time next spring.

So keep your eyes peeled for the next--and, actually, first proper (because God knows I'm only treading water here)--entry in this ongoing (and super exciting!) developer diary, coming soon to a Web site near you. That would be the one you're on right now.

* That bit about the odd mutiny or two and the sirens' songs may not be strictly true. Or even slightly true. Or anywhere close to any truth at all. BAM!

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